Is love worth the risk?
Existential philosophers are constantly asking this question. They write books and papers on it, creating sophisticated metaphors they then boast as if it contains the answer to life itself. But what’s the use of all these ideas if most people will not understand the concepts?
How could a fifteen year-old fully comprehend Being and Nothingness? Adolescents may be young, yet they also find themselves at crucial crossroads where they need answers. Whether it’s Sartre, Camus, or Kierkegaard, what matters is that the heart and desperation find a sense of calm.
This scenario is the basis for The Orange Girl, a novel about Georg, a teenager who has a difficult relationship with his mother and stepfather. He constantly wonders about the point of his existence, since he does not know happiness, friendship, or love.
Everything changes when his grandmother finds an old letter in the attic. The text, addressed to the young man, turns out to have been written by his father, who passed away from cancer. Georg locks himself in his room and starts a dialogue with the man he barely remembers.
The letter is a conversation started by his father at least 11 years prior. It’s a story and a riddle that have been waiting for Georg all these years.
“Imagine that you were on the threshold of this fairytale, sometime billions of years ago when everything was created. And you were able to choose whether you wanted to be born to a life on this planet at some point. You wouldn’t know when you were going to be born, nor how long you’d live for, but at any event it wouldn’t be more than a few years. All you’d know was that, if you chose to come into the world at some point, you’d also have to leave it again one day and go away from everything.”
After presenting open questions, the narrator begins to tell the story of the girl with the oranges. Jostein Gaarder has created a novel that intertwines the love story between Georg’s father and this woman he meets by chance with the difficult questions asked by the fifteen-year-old. Eventually these separate narratives come together.
“Life is short for those who are truly able to understand that one day the entire world will come to a complete end. Not everyone is capable of that.”
In the end the book gives us a valuable lesson: no love lasts forever. But up there with the stars and the universe, everyone is infinite.
“We can't own each other's past. The question is whether we have a future together.”
If you're still looking for your next book check out this list of titles on love and sex, or the best narrations to have post-breakup.
Translated by María Suárez